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McGillX: Food for Thought

A course that offers a scientific framework for understanding food and its impact on health and society from past to present.
10 weeks
3–5 hours per week
Instructor-led on a course schedule
This course is archived

About this course

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Eating well and understanding the nuances of food has become a complicated and often confusing experience. Virtually every day brings news about some “miracle food” that we should be consuming or some "poison" we should be avoiding. One day it's tomatoes to prevent cancer, then flaxseed against heart disease or soybeans for reducing menopause symptoms. At the same time, we are warned about trans fats, genetically modified foods, aspartame or MSG. Dietary supplements may be touted as the key to health or a factor in morbidity. According to some, dairy products are indispensable while others urge us to avoid them. The same goes for meat, wheat and soy; the list goes on.This course will shed light on the molecules that constitute our macro and micronutrients and will attempt to clarify a number of the food issues using tthe best evidence available. 

At a glance

  • Institution: McGillX
  • Subject: Science
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:


  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills:Menopause, Cancer Prevention, Cancer

What you'll learn

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  • The main nutritional components of a healthy diet
  • Some of the issues around food production and health
  • How to assess claims about food related research presented in the media
Week 1: Introduction
This introductory week covers topics such as the link between food and health, historical views of food and food movements. 
Week 2: Micronutrients – Vitamins
A comprehensive look at vitamins. Topics to be discussed include deficiency diseases and recommended daily allowances. 
Week 3: Micronutrients – Minerals
This week you will be presented a selection of minerals that are important in the human diet with a key focus on calcium and osteoporosis.
Week 4: Macronutrients
How does the body breakdown carbohydrates? What are the different types of fats? Why are some amino acids essential? These questions and more will be answered this week.
Week 5: Agriculture
This week you will learn how farming has changed from the discovery of the key ingredients for fertilizer in the 1800’s to the introduction of genetically modified crops in the 1990’s.
Week 6: Food Additives
What chemicals are added to preserve food and extend its shelf life? What ingredients are added to enhance the taste and look of food? This week you will explore the world of food additives. 
Week 7: Adverse Food Reactions
This week focuses on adverse food reactions including different types of toxins, food allergies and microbial contamination that results in food poisoning. 
Week 8: Weight Control
This week looks at the science and non-science behind weight control, especially as it relates to developed countries where obesity is rapidly becoming an epidemic.
Week 9: Diet & Health
This week you will learn about the risk factors for cancer and heart disease, as well as how diet and lifestyle play a key role in the development and prevention of these diseases.
Week 10: Wrap Up
The course wraps up with a look at the history of the natural food business, as well as the science and “non-science” of eating nutritious food.

Learner testimonials

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“Useful, informative and enjoyable at the same time with very charismatic teachers! Without chemistry background it was still understandable.” -- Previous Student

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